“Aster always looks forward to the Midwinter Festival, a reunion of the entire Vanissen family that includes competitions in witchery and shapeshifting. This year. he’s especially excited to compete in the annual Jolrun tournament – as a witch. He’s determined to show everyone that he’s proud of who he is and what he’s learned, but he knows it won’t be easy to defy tradition. Ariel has darker things on her mind than the festival – like the mysterious witch who’s been visiting her dreams, claiming to know the truth about Ariel’s past. She appreciates everything the Vanissens have done for her. But Ariel still craves a place where she truly belongs. The festival is a whirlwind of excitement and activity, but for Aster and Ariel nothing goes according to plan. When a powerful and sinister force invades the reunion, threatening to destroy everything the young witches have fought for, can they find the courage to fight it together? Or will dark magic tear them apart?
-Synopsis from inside front cover
I always look forward to reading seasonal graphic novels this time of year, and this month I’ll be reviewing witchy ones in particular. I’ll be posting them throughout the month of October.
*light spoilers below*
In The Midwinter Witch, Aster is preparing for a big family gathering in the Vanissen’s and their extended family will be meeting for the Midwinter Festival. Aster’s friend Charlie joins them, along with their new friend Ariel, who we met in the last book. Ariel is still new to magic and wants to know who her real family is. When a family member she has never met reaches out to Ariel in a dream, Ariel decides that she may want to pursue that relationship for the sake of belonging somewhere.
The Midwinter Festival includes the shifting competition and the witchery competition, also known as the Jolrun. Aster is competing in the Jolrun, the first boy ever to do so, and his mother encourages Ariel to participate, too. After the Jolrun, in a fit of insecurity and fear, Ariel summons her aunt and when she show up, she brings dark magic with her. Ariel has to decide who she trusts more: her blood relative or Aster and the rest of his family.
Despite my description above, this volume of The Witch Boy series felt lackluster to me. None of the above topics were explored in depth. In my post about book two, The Hidden Witch, I did compare the story line to The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow which is for readers of the same age group, and also deals with topics surrounding belonging and prejudice. I think The Okay Witch series has done a more effective job of addressing those issues head-on, explaining them directly in social contexts, in a way that is organic with the story itself. This series on the other hand dances around the issues, in my opinion, and what results is a story that could have been more but simply wasn’t.
I don’t think I’m the right reader for this series so I likely will not read future books.